Africa Fashion Guide
A social enterprise promoting sustainability within Africa's fashion and textile industry.


September 20th, 2012

Fairly-traded Swiss Designs, Handmade in Kenya – Must be Savannah Chic – DESIGNER PROFILE

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Written by: Jacqueline Shaw
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Savannah Chic is the creation of Kenyan mother and daugther, Charu and Shruti Patel. After graduating from Cambridge University, Shruti spent 8 years working for international aid agencies in developing countries, with governments and donor organisations such as the World Bank and UNDP. Time and again she found that charity did not produce lasting change. Whilst working with these institutions gave her the satisfaction of having a job that ‘makes a difference’, Shruti rarely actually saw what that difference was. In 2008, together with her mother who studied fashion at one of Kenya’s top design colleges, they started designing jewellery hand in hand with talented artisans and fair trade workshops. They have now built a network of over 15 skilled craftsmen and women, with whom they design collections that combine the latest jewellery trends with traditional African techniques.  From playful ceramic jewellery and charming pieces made from recycled glass,  to elegant designs with horn, bone and vintage African beads; this jewellery can be worn just as easily on the style-savvy streets of London, as it can whilst on safari in Kenya.

We first met Shruti whilst attending the Hub Fashion Week/Origin Africa event in Addis Ababa and was inspired by her calm composure but her tenacity to make a difference and do something meaningful in her own home country whilst keeping it true to Kenya and true to Africa.

In Kenya, where Shruti grew up, millions of dollars of aid money had done very little to improve the lives of the majority, who continue to live on less than $2 a day.  As a development economist, she saw two reasons for this.  First, governments and aid agencies were not addressing the fundamental problem of unemployment, and second, the projects they implemented failed to recognize the value of indigenous wealth, which in Kenya is so clearly displayed in the quality and unique character of artisanal metal and beadwork. Savannah Chic was created as a way of leveraging these skills and promoting development.

Their present collection entitled ‘Summer LoVe’ is inspired by East Africa’s signature ‘kikoy’ cloth. Centuries ago, fishermen and spice merchants sailed the trade routes of the Indian ocean with kikoys wrapped around their hips…so theirs is just a new take on an old piece of East African culture.

They design jewellery inspired by the beauty and diversity of African beads and raw materials. Their distinctive Afro-inspired jewellery can be worn just as easily on the style-savvy streets of London as it can whilst on safari in Africa. Created hand in hand with talented artisans and fair trade certified workshops in Kenya, their aim is to harness traditional skills and empower communities by developing a sustainable and direct route to market.

Wilsons Bangles – image courtesy – Savannah-Chic

Fair trade is there way of doing business that also creates a more equitable system of global trade. It connects consumers to the producers and artisans who create the products which encourages us to think about where our purchases come from and what went into producing them. The World Fair Trade Organisation (WFTO) has set out 10 standards for Fair Trade organisations. and these are what Savannah Chic focuses on in their business.

Creating Opportunities for Economically Disadvantaged Producers
Fair Trade is a strategy for poverty alleviation and sustainable development. Its purpose is to create opportunities for producers who have been economically disadvantaged or marginalized by the conventional trading system.

Savannah Chic carefully selects the artisans that undertake the company’s production. We seek out marginalized communities to cultivate long-term business relationships with. This includes women living with and affected by HIV / AIDS, mentally and physically-challenged adults, and illiterate and unemployed youth living in the slum areas of Nairobi. By incorporating their skills and abilities into our designs, we purposefully provide these communities with sustainable incomes and independence.

Transparency & Accountability
Fair Trade involves transparent management and commercial relations to deal fairly and respectfully with trading partners.

Savannah Chic is a family-run business based in Kenya and in Switzerland. This advantage of being in two places at the same time enables us to work directly and continuously with the communities and artisans that make our products. Our negotiations are completely transparent and it is the artisans themselves that determine the value of the work for which they are paid.

Capacity Building
Fair Trade means developing producer independence. Fair Trade relationships provide continuity, during which producers can improve their management skills and access new markets.

Lack of business and management skills are a key hindrance for Kenyan handicraft producers – many sell their products below cost price simply due to the lack of adequate record-keeping. A core element of Savannah Chic’s business model is the on-going professional development of the producers. We help them overcome these problems by for example, working with them to develop simple cash-flow forecast and providing interest-free loans when necessary. We also believe in encouraging creativity and working towards building direct trading relationships. Our upcoming e-platform I.D.E.A aims to inspire Kenyan producers as well as forge closer links with end-consumers.

Kikoy Bracelets – image courtesy – Savannah-Chic

Promoting Fair Trade
Fair Trade Organizations raise awareness of Fair Trade and the possibility of greater justice in world trade. They provide their customers with information about the organization, the products, and in what conditions they are made. They use honest advertising and marketing techniques and aim for the highest standards in product quality and packing.

Our aim is to show that fair trade and high quality fashion can co-exist in a way that brings development to poor communities. We are passionate about our involvement in the ethical fashion movement and view the promotion of fair trade as a key part of our mission. Our jewellery would not be what it is without the communities we work with – our products and producers are very closely intertwined and this means we can provide detailed and transparent information about the producers we work with and how our products are made.

Payment of a Fair Price 
A fair price in the regional or local context is one that has been agreed through dialogue and participation. It covers not only the costs of production but enables production which is socially just and environmentally sound. It provides fair pay to the producers and takes into account the principle of equal pay for equal work by women and men. Fair Traders ensure prompt payment to their partners and, whenever possible, help producers with access to pre-harvest or pre-production financing.

The price we pay producers is negotiated on the basis of effort in terms of time, quantity, and level of skill needed to make the product. The negotiated price is above average for similar work that may be undertaken by other producers and is in every respect a fair price. The above average price is also an effective way of ensuring the high quality of craftsmanship and care taken to produce each of our products. Furthermore, our prices are re-negotiated frequently so as to reflect rapid and substantial increases in the cost of living in Kenya. Both men and women producers are paid according the same principles. All our producers receive at least 30% of their payment up-front, with the remainder paid upon receipt of the final products. If there is a quality problem, we try our level best to rectify or seek an alternative use for the products- always working together with the producer to ensure a fair and sustainable solution is reached.

Gender Equality 
Fair Trade means that women’s work is properly valued and rewarded. Women are always paid for their contribution to the production process and are empowered in their organizations.>

Work done for Savannah Chic, whether by men or women is rewarded as equally. Our women producers are able to carry out their work around their every day house work, which promotes independence and empowerment by means of earning an income.

image courtesy – Savannah-Chic

Working conditions
Fair Trade means a safe and healthy working environment for producers. The participation of children (if any) does not adversely affect their well-being, security, educational requirements and need for play and conforms to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child as well as the law and norms in the local context.

A significant amount of work carried out for Savannah Chic is undertaken within the premises of fair-trade certified workshops and many of our producers work within their own homes which are safe and healthy. In cases where working conditions are not ideal, for example in the slum areas of Nairobi we provide furniture or additional equipment that will contribute to the on-going improvement of working conditions.

Child Labour
Fair Trade Organizations respect the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, as well as local laws and social norms in order to ensure that the participation of children in production processes of fairly traded articles (if any) does not adversely affect their well-being, security, educational requirements and need for play. Organizations working directly with informally organised producers disclose the involvement of children in production

Children are not involved in the production of products for Savannah Chic.

The Environment
Fair Trade actively encourages better environmental practices and the application of responsible methods of production.

All production for Savannah Chic is undertaken by hand, using minimal machinery. We are also increasingly focused on increasing the percentage of recycled material used in all our products and encourage responsible waste disposal as part of the production process.

Trade Relations
Fair Trade Organizations trade with concern for the social, economic and environmental well-being of marginalized small producers and do not maximise profit at their expense. They maintain long-term relationships based on solidarity, trust and mutual respect that contribute to the promotion and growth of Fair Trade. Whenever possible producers are assisted with access to pre-harvest or pre-production advance payment.

Savannah Chic Ltd has a mission to positively impact marginalized communities by establishing, monitoring and maintaining a company that has responsibly priced products; whilst at the same time raising the profile of Kenyan craftsmanship and fair trade enterprises. We are committed to establishing long-term relationships with our producers and continue to work with the same communities we began cooperating with back in 2008



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  1. Very nice . I wil share on my Facebook page for African inspired jewelry!!

  2. christel

    What are the Wilsons bangles made of?

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